Abstract Purpose Metabolic syndrome (MS) is a clustering of cardiovascular disease risk factors that identifies individuals with the highest risk for heart disease. Two factors that may influence the MS are physical activity and aerobic fitness. This study determined if adolescent with the MS had low levels of aerobic fitness and physical activity as children. Methods This longitudinal, exploratory study had 389 participants: 51% girls, 84% Caucasian, 12% African American, 1% Hispanic, and 3% other races, from the State of North Carolina. Habitual physical activity (PA survey), aerobic fitness (VO2max), body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, and lipids obtained at 7–10 y of age were compared to their results obtained 7 y later at ages 14–17 y. Results Eighteen adolescents (4.6%) developed 3 or more characteristics of the MS. Logistic regression, adjusting for BMI percentile, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, found that adolescents with the MS were 6.08 (95%CI = 1.18–60.08) times more likely to have low aerobic fitness as children and 5.16 (95%CI = 1.06–49.66) times more likely to have low PA levels. Conclusion Low levels of childhood physical activity and aerobic fitness are associated with the presence of the metabolic syndrome in adolescents. Thus, efforts need to begin early in childhood to increase exercise.